Many missionaries dedicate their lives to sharing the gospel. They may even sacrifice all other dreams for this high calling. So how on earth could I not sacrifice a few months and use my abilities as a web programmer to help contribute to the global missions effort? This was the question I was recently confronted with.
My wife and I were in the planning stages of a mission trip to Thailand and were looking for creative ways to raise our funds. I immediately thought of creating a website that would tell those we knew about our trip. This would save us quite a bit of money from not having to pay postage for mailings. Not only was it more affordable, it would allow us to inform more people than traditional methods would about our ministry. By using pictures and texts we could also inform readers better than by simply using words in a missionary letter. Visitors could get updates on the progress of the fundraising and learn how to best pray for the trip based on the events that were taking place. I couldn't think of a better way, within our means, to raise support.
Soon I felt compelled to share this method with others. Why not give other people the opportunity that I had? This was the start of the 417 Project. I gave a presentation to a group of potential missionaries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and was asked several times why I did not charge a fee for this service.
Besides the fact that I could not live with myself knowing that I was charging missionaries for a service that is basically free to provide, the fact is that my primary goal for the website is to help missionaries raise money. Charging them for the service seemed to be counterproductive. In fact, it would cost less for the 417 Project to host one thousand missionary ministries each month than to go to a movie and get some popcorn.
“417” comes from Philippians 4:17, which says “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” The project is meant to be a tool to help missionaries raise support. A missionary is able to upload pictures and change text in a five-page mini-site through an easy-to-use online form. The changes are made instantly. If the missionary is looking to post more information than the mini-site can handle, he or she is able to link to his or her own blog or online journal that is hosted elsewhere. If his or her mission organization allows it, he or she is able to accept donations online. Paypal, Amazon and others provide a means to accept online donations through credit card. Missionaries can also post a mailing address where support checks can be sent. (Click here for a demo of the site.)
The project is just beginning and only God knows the potential for this service. First, enough missionaries must try the site and give feedback. From there I will continue to tailor it to meet the needs of the men and women who are on the front lines of ministry. Although this may be a small contribution, I feel blessed to play a part in global evangelization. My hope is that this encourages you to consider how you can use the talents God has given you to help spread the gospel.
If you have any questions/comments, would like to start your own 417 mini-site or want someone to help you find a way to use your gifts for the gospel, feel free to contact me at [email protected].